At the 2012 IIT/ID Design Strategy Conference a common theme for all speakers was the problem of how to measure innovation and new business models. Every time someone mentioned the term “metrics” the audience gasped as many, including myself, were all to familiar with the situation where a great idea is nipped in the bud when someone in the room asks “how will this make money… how much money will this make… what is the ‘ROI’ on this investment?” It seems that designers face some strange universal problem centered around an inability to speak “MBA” when proposing new ideas or solutions to problems. There is some strange divide between “creatives” and “business”. Or at least there is a stereotype, cognitive bias or a legacy at work. Whatever the issue, I have seen a trend with designers at all levels where “creatives” are beginning to speak and learn the acumen of business jargon and argot, empowering themselves with the quantitative tools to represent solutions in ways that actually get pushed successfully through the evaluation mill at the top levels of large organizations.
One of the key ways beyond learning “MBA” is to step out of the comfortable and familiar circle of other designers (“creatives”) and begin to work directly with, collaborate with, “business”. In a “waterfall” structure, a designer or creative (this is user experience too) comes up with a bunch of stuff and passes it along to the “business” when adds their input and then the evaluation begins. In what some refer to as “agile” the designer and the business work together from the get go and pitch ideas as a team. Obviously the latter process seems to be preferable and more successful. But in reality it is very difficult due to time and organizational/structural constraints to make “agile” work. Now comes the “design planner” with it’s roots solidly planted in the core of the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology curriculum. Being an alumni of the program as a “creative” (photography and human-centered communications design) and working with many who were on the “track” of design planning, I witnessed first-hand the beginnings of a revolution at work in all businesses worldwide as they come to terms of the realities of changing markets and evolving economic models. One of the key tenants of the “track” holds that design is the core of any business moving forward into this brave new world. A design planner speaks both MBA and design, gaining a foothold from the top down in the decision-making process with a solid set of tools to help present and evaluate efforts. For more information about design planning and companies that are actively specializing in it see: